SOUTH DAKOTA Department of
Environment & Natural Resources

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Drinking Water Program

Operator Certification

Public water and wastewater treatment systems are operated by professionals that are certified by the State of South Dakota. Drinking water and wastewater treatment systems protect public health and the environment only if they are working and being operated correctly.  The Operator Certification Program is intended to protect public health, environmental quality, and water/wastewater systems' investment in their facilities.   A voluntary certification program was started in 1954.  The mandatory certification law was passed by the South Dakota State Legislature in 1970.  There are certifications in water treatment, water distribution, wastewater treatment, wastewater collection, stabilization ponds, small water treatment systems, and very small water systems.

Question LogoWhat regulations and statutes apply to this program?
Answer logo South Dakota's Water and Wastewater Operator Certification regulations are listed in the Administrative Rules of South Dakota 74:21:01-02, and the statutes are listed in South Dakota Codified Law 34A-3.
Question Logo Which water and wastewater systems need certified operators?
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Any wastewater treatment facility or wastewater collection facility that serves 500 or more people must employ a certified operator.

All community and nontransient noncommunity systems  must have a certified water treatment and distribution operator.

All transient water systems using surface water, using disinfection equipment, or that serve more than 500 people per day must have a certified operator.


Question Logo What is the rating of my water/wastewater system for purposes of Operator Certification?
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Click here to find your system classification.

Question Logo How do I become certified?
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Download  Application and Information forms.

Training courses are presented throughout the state by the Rural Water Association.  These training courses are excellent review prior to taking an exam.  Many operators go to a class before taking an exam; however, it is not required.  To register for classes presented by SD Rural Water, please click here.

Applications for exams must be submitted to the department at least two weeks in advance of the exam date.  There are education and experience requirements to take any exam.  Upon passing the exam, operators receive a certificate which must be renewed each yearClick here to view the schedule of exams. 

Question Logo What kind of exam is given?
Answer logo The Operator Certification Program uses exams supplied by the Association of Boards of Certification (ABC).  ABC is a national organization that promotes the certification of water and wastewater professionals.
  • All exams are 100 multiple choice questions (one point per question-70% to pass) except for Stabilization Pond and Small Water Treatment System exams which are 50 multiple choice questions (two points per question-70% to pass)
  • Exam answer sheets are sent to ABC to be scored electronically with results then being sent to DENR to be relayed to the examinee
  • Cost of an exam is $10.00
  • Questions have been validated by ABC panel of experts
  • Exams have been reviewed by SD Board of Operator Certification for applicability in South Dakota
  • Primary reference materials are the California State University-Sacramento Water and Wastewater Training Manuals (aka Ken Kerri Manuals) as well as AWWA/WEF manuals


Question Logo I am eligible for a Class IV exam but do not have a certification at the present time. Do I have to pass the Class I exam then the Class II and III exams before I can take the Class IV exam?
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No! You do not have to take the exams sequentially. You may take any exam that you are qualified to take according to your education and work experience.

Question Logo What subject matter is covered on the various certification exams?
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The ABC has a "need-to-know" job analysis and references for each of the exams.  The purpose of the job analysis is to identify the essential job tasks performed by water/wastewater operators and the capabilities required to competently perform these job tasks.  They provide the foundation for exam and training development.

Download the information for:

Question Logo When I received my written results from my exam, I also received an "Individual Mastery Report".  How do I us this?
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This is an individual breakdown on how you did on the various sections of the exam. For example, under the Objective column, for a Water Distribution exam you might have listed “Install Equipment”, and it also says you missed 3 of 5 questions. You can then go to ABC’s Need-to-Know (NTK) as follows---

“The candidate can use the Individual Mastery’s information and cross reference it with the ABC Need-to-Know criteria to gain additional information on the categories of interest. South Dakota operators would utilize the 2012 documents found at the hyperlink.”

From there, you can find the level of knowledge and the specifics under the general category heading needed for your exam.

In this example under “Install Equipment”, there can be specific questions on backflow prevention devices, hydrants, meters, piping, service connections, taps, valves, and mains. The depth of questions can be at the “Comprehension”, “Application”, or “Analysis” level which is defined in the NTK on page 2. Also here is a simpler explanation of the depth of knowledge needed-

  • Comprehension – recognizing the topic – do you know what it is and the basic functions related with it?
    • [piece of machinery/laboratory test/etc.] is used for what purpose?
  • Application – use or apply information – can you actually use the topic and understand what the numbers, etc. that you are reading actually mean?
    • Calculations, predictions based on information, etc.
  • Analysis – diagnose and analyze situations – can you tell if something is wrong; and if so, can you fix it? Analyzing symptoms of a situation and determining the proper course of action


DENR does not have the specific exam you took as those are returned to ABC. Only your score and answer sheet are returned w/o the specific questions marked wrong or right.

Question Logo Where can I obtain training materials?
Answer Logo Exam questions are primarily referenced to publications from California State University, Sacramento (916-278-6142); the Water Environment Federation (WEF) (800-666-0206); and the American Water Works Association (AWWA) (800-926-7337).  The South Dakota Association of Rural Water Systems SDARWS) has some training material, however, the best training material is from the other referenced organizations.

Contact these organizations for your training materials.

For more information on references and study materials, please check The Association of Boards of Certification (ABC) web page.

Question logo Where can I find online training for contact hours?
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Try these links for more information on online training opportunities:

Question logo Am I eligible for the February 1, 2016 renewal?
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Click here for a list of operation specialists that are NOT eligible for the 2016 renewal.

Question logo How can I find out how many contact hours I have and find my operator number?
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A sliding scale for required contact hours is used depending on the number and type of certificates an operator holds. Click here to find your current hours.  Operators are listed in alphabetical order.  Operator ID#'s are also shown.  The contact hour requirements are as follows:

Number and Type of Certificates                                                         Contact Hours Required                            

  • Operator has one certificate (Class I or II)                      10 contact hours every three years
  • Operator has one certificate (Class III or IV)                   20 contact hours every three years
  • Operator has more than one certificate                          15 contact hours every three years

    and all are Class I and II

  • Operator has more than one certificate                          30 contact hours every three years

    and at least one certificate is a Class III or IV

Question Logo Can a water or wastewater system contract for a certified operator?
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Yes! Contracting for a certified operator can satisfy the state requirements for a certified operator.  The Board of Operator Certification can approve a contract where a certified operator not under the direct employment of a system can work as a system's certified operator.  Click here for a list of certified operators that contract with water and wastewater systems.  The contract operator must work a minimum number of hours per week on-site and be in direct responsible charge of the water/wastewater system.  Details for a contract operator and information that must be included in your contract can be found by clicking here.

Question Logo Does a person have to be certified to take water or wastewater samples?
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No! Anyone can take samples. Certain water and wastewater systems are required to have a certified operator be in direct responsible charge of its operation and maintenance in order to be in compliance with the Operator Certification rules. Sampling is just one task for the operator of a system. Non-certified personnel are allowed to work under a certified operator doing certain tasks. Also it should be noted that for a water system, only an operator certified at any level can make water quantity and quality decisions. A water or wastewater system must still take Safe Drinking Water Act and Clean Water Act compliance samples even if it is currently operating without a certified operator. 

Question Logo Can I get a list of certified operators?
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Click here to lookup operators in your area.

Question Logo Is there any way I can find out about water or wastewater jobs available in South Dakota?
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The South Dakota Water and Wastewater Association (SDWWA) maintains a clearinghouse of water and wastewater jobs available in South Dakota.  Click here to go to the SDWWA web site.

Question Logo I am a water and wastewater trainer. How can I get the Operator Certification Program to approve my training class so that contact hours can be awarded to South Dakota operators?
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Submit a detailed agenda of your class (times, subjects, instructors, etc.) plus a biography for each instructor to Rob Kittay-Secretary to the Board. It can be submitted by fax at 605-773-5286 or email as noted below.

Question Logo When does the Board of Operator Certification meet?
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The board usually meets twice per year - in September during the SD Water and Wastewater Association (SDWWA) Conference and during the winter or spring. 

The next Board of Operator Certification Meeting will be on April 19, 2016 at 2:00 pm CT at the Pierre Matthew Center-523 E Capitol.  Click here for a copy of the agenda.

The public is always welcome at all meetings.

Question Logo Can I get a copy of the minutes from the Board of Operator Certification meetings?
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Yes, click on a date below:


Question Logo Where do I get more information on Operator Certification?
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Information on operator certification can be received by contacting Rob Kittay in the Drinking Water Program at (605) 773-3754.  Most general information questions are answered in a pamphlet called Water and Wastewater Operator Certification (pdf).


For more drinking water information, visit the Drinking Water Program webpage.  There is information on regulations, bottled water, consumer confidence reports, information for water system operators and a whole lot more!